Hollywood has been thrown into a tumultuous crisis by the covid-19 pandemic. Production on movies has come to a standstill, and those that have attempted restarts have faced struggles and stalls as the industry attempts to reckon with the mass crews required on blockbuster bread-and-butter complying with new safety measures. And now, even the movies we thought might be “safe” in 2021 are facing tough questions.
The Hollywood Reporter released a report last night alleging that Legendary’s Kaiju-crossover epic Godzilla vs. Kong has become the centre of a bidding war to have it release on a streaming service next year, as opposed to its currently-planned theatrical release in May 2021. According to the trade, Netflix has allegedly offered $US200 ($272) million to get Adam Wingard’s action movie to debut on the service, an offer countered by WarnerMedia, hoping that it could ultimately debut on HBO Max.
A Warner Bros. spokesperson speaking to THR would only confirm that the studio planned to release Godzilla vs. Kong theatrically “as scheduled,” and Gizmodo has reached out to the studio and HBO Max for further commentary — we’ll update this post if we hear back.
What’s fascinating here isn’t so much the deals, but the fact that they’re happening for a movie that, as far as many have been concerned, might have recently been as a “safe” theatrical release. A late spring 2021 release might be far enough away that rollout of potential vaccinations for covid-19 could make going to the theatre a significantly less risky prospect. Movies have been delayed to that point and beyond over the last few months as it’s become increasingly clear that there’s little chance of making money on theatrical releases in 2020. All the deals for straight-to-streaming titles have been in consideration for films that were meant to be coming out this year, like Mulan, Soul, and most recently Wonder Woman 1984.
The fact that an on-demand release — whether entirely or in conjunction with a simultaneous limited theatrical debut, which might be desirable for Legendary considering that the “Monsterverse” movies have traditionally done stronger in box offices outside the U.S., China in particular — is being considered for a film six months away speaks to the uncertainty Hollywood will continue to face for the foreseeable future.
The novel coronavirus has laid the theatre industry low, and we’re going to have to accept sooner rather than later that things at the box office, and in other walks of life, won’t be going back to normal any time soon.